Alternatives to Pages

Pages may be free with your Mac, but it's not the only word processor. Here we look at some of the best alternatives.

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  • Google Docs Google Docs
  • iText iText
  • LibreOffice LibreOffice 4.2
  • Nisus Nisus Writer
  • OpenOffice OpenOffice Writer
  • Pages Apple Pages 5.2
  • Scrivener Scrivener 2.5
  • Word Microsoft Word
  • More stories
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Google Docs

Price: free

More info: docs.google.com

Wordprocessing: Google recently released an iOS app for Google Docs that lets you edit your documents without an Internet connection, but if you’re using a Mac you’ll still need a reliable Internet connection in order to use Google Docs online.

Google Docs is fairly basic, but it provides all the main tools you need for simple documents such as letters and reports. The toolbar that is displayed at the top of each document provides quick access to formatting tools, alignment controls, bullet lists and other features. Google Docs cleverly incorporates other Google services too, with a Research option that uses the search engine to find images and other information relating to your document, and you can even translate your documents into other languages. It’s annoying, though, that the word-count option is hidden inside a menu, rather than being displayed on-screen.

Page Layout: The layout features within Google Docs are also fairly limited, but Google Docs has recently been updated and now allows you to import photos and graphics, and to crop them and resize them, as well as controlling the way that text wraps around images. It’s simple enough to drop a single image onto a page, but Google Docs isn’t ideal for documents such as newsletters that need a bit more layout freedom when working with text and graphics.

Collaboration: Google Docs is good for online collaboration, as it allows you to make your documents publicly available on the Internet or to restrict access to just the people that you specify. You can track the changes made to your documents, and there’s even an online chat option so that you can talk to your colleagues as you work – although this does require participants to log in with a Google+ account.

Pros: free, good online collaboration options, works well with other Google services

Cons: only includes basic wordprocessing and layout features

Read:

Microsoft Word vs Apple Pages review

Apple Pages for iPad, iPhone review

Pages for Mac review

Next »

Next Prev Google Docs

Price: free

More info: docs.google.com

Wordprocessing: Google recently released an iOS app for Google Docs that lets you edit your documents without an Internet connection, but if you’re using a Mac you’ll still need a reliable Internet connection in order to use Google Docs online.

Google Docs is fairly basic, but it provides all the main tools you need for simple documents such as letters and reports. The toolbar that is displayed at the top of each document provides quick access to formatting tools, alignment controls, bullet lists and other features. Google Docs cleverly incorporates other Google services too, with a Research option that uses the search engine to find images and other information relating to your document, and you can even translate your documents into other languages. It’s annoying, though, that the word-count option is hidden inside a menu, rather than being displayed on-screen.

Page Layout: The layout features within Google Docs are also fairly limited, but Google Docs has recently been updated and now allows you to import photos and graphics, and to crop them and resize them, as well as controlling the way that text wraps around images. It’s simple enough to drop a single image onto a page, but Google Docs isn’t ideal for documents such as newsletters that need a bit more layout freedom when working with text and graphics.

Collaboration: Google Docs is good for online collaboration, as it allows you to make your documents publicly available on the Internet or to restrict access to just the people that you specify. You can track the changes made to your documents, and there’s even an online chat option so that you can talk to your colleagues as you work – although this does require participants to log in with a Google+ account.

Pros: free, good online collaboration options, works well with other Google services

Cons: only includes basic wordprocessing and layout features

Read:

Microsoft Word vs Apple Pages review

Apple Pages for iPad, iPhone review

Pages for Mac review

 

iText

Price: free

More info: The App Store

Wordprocessing: The free version of iText Express is more of an alternative to Apple’s old TextEdit utility, rather than being a full-blown rival for Pages. It provides a quick and easy option for viewing and editing text documents, and can also be used to view eBooks in the ePub format.

The program focuses very much on simple wordprocessing, allowing you to quickly write notes and short documents, and to perform basic tasks such as formatting text, adjusting alignment and checking spelling and grammar. There are some useful extra features, though, including a Styles menu that allows you to quickly format your text, bookmarks for locating specific points within the document, and the option to create footnotes and endnotes. There’s also a Pro version of iText, costing £7.99, that provides additional features, such as the ability to customize keyboard shortcuts and a file browser for searching through documents stored on your Mac. Watch out, though, as the iText Ultimate program that’s also available on the App Store is from a completely different developer and seems to be even more basic than iText Express.

Page Layout: It’s possible to copy and paste graphics into your text documents in iText, but the program doesn’t really provide proper layout tools that will allow you to move text and graphics elements around on the page. However the developer of iText is Japanese, and the program does include options such as Japanese text-wrap and vertical writing, which might be useful if you don’t want to pay for a more expensive wordprocessor with multilingual support.

Collaboration: Nope.

Pros: free to download, fast and simple text editing and formatting, supports Japanese vertical writing

Cons: no collaborating tools, few options for working with graphics and page layouts

 

LibreOffice 4.2

Price: free – donations encouraged

More info: www.libreoffice.org

Wordprocessing: LibreOffice is another open-source office suite – in fact, it’s actually a spin-off from OpenOffice and its wordprocessing module includes many of the same features as OpenOffice Writer. However, LibreOffice does have a tidier interface that might suit Mac users a little better.

Instead of the crowded palette and toolbar of OpenOffice, LibreOffice has a simpler toolbar that provides just a few key tools for formatting text, adjusting alignment and creating tables and list. Additional tools are available in a series of other toolbars that you can show or hide as required, including search tools, form design and even a toolbar for creating spreadsheet formula for tables. One feature that we particularly like is the ‘word completion’ option, which monitors the document you’re currently working on and then remembers words that you use frequently. If you use the word ‘document’ a lot then you can just type ‘doc’ and LibreOffice will automatically complete it and type ‘document’ for you.

Page Layout: LibreOffice has an impressive set of tools for working with page layouts. You can move multiple text and graphics elements around on the page, and there’s also a Web Layout mode that shows you how your document will look when converted into HTML web pages. There’s a drawing toolbar that provides simple drawing tools and flowchart graphics, and even a 3D toolbar that allows you to extrude and rotate graphics in 3D. You can rotate text boxes as well, so you have plenty of freedom to experiment with text and graphics effects in your layouts.

Collaboration: LibreOffice has good options for tracking changes made to documents. It can store multiple versions of a document within a single file – although the file sizes can get a bit out of hand with this option. You can also track and highlight changes made to a document by other users but, like OpenOffice, LibreOffice doesn’t allow people to collaborate on documents at the same time.

Pros: free to download, tidy Mac-like interface, wide range of wordprocessing and layout tools

Cons: limited collaboration features, complex menus mean that some tools can be tricky to find

 

Nisus Writer

Nisus Writer Express/Pro

Price: Nisus Writer Express - $45; Nisus Writer Pro - $79

More info: www.nisus.com

Wordprocessing: There are two versions of Nisus Writer, but even the basic Nisus Writer Express is still very much a tool for seasoned writers who need precise control over long, complex documents.

The program provides precise control over elements such as footnotes and end-notes, and its PowerFind option goes way beyond the standard Find/Replace feature found in most conventional wordprocessors. You can use it to locate words that end with ‘ing’, numbers of a specific length, or any type of currency symbol. Strong multilingual support also means that it’s a good choice for people who need to work with other languages.

Page Layout: Nisus Writer allows you to import graphics and photos into your documents, but it doesn’t provide the free-form layout features of rivals such as Pages and Microsoft Word. It does, however, include a powerful ‘style sheet’ option that can be used to control the appearance of multiple text elements within your documents. If you’re writing a long technical manual you can create a single style sheet that specifies the format of chapter headings, sub-headings and body text. That allows you to concentrate on writing each chapter and leave Nisus to handle all the formatting for you.

Collaboration: Collaboration isn’t a strong point for either version of Nisus Writer. The Pro version has options for adding comments and tracking changes that aren’t available in the Express version. These will be useful when sharing copies of your documents with colleagues, but Nisus isn’t really designed for online collaboration in the way that Microsoft Word or Google Docs are.

Pros: powerful search/replace, style sheets aid formatting for long documents, multilingual support

Cons: limited page layout and collaboration features

 

OpenOffice Writer

Price: free

More info: www.openoffice.org

Wordprocessing: Writer is the wordprocessing module of OpenOffice, the popular open-source suite of productivity apps. It looks a bit daunting at first, as it has both a Properties palette that is similar to the Inspector palette in Pages, and a customizable Toolbar that is almost as crowded as the Ribbon in Word.

But at least that allows it to put all its main editing tools right there on screen in front of you. As well as basic tools for formatting and editing text, Writer includes useful extras such as predefined styles for paragraph text, entire pages and bullet lists. There’s a handy Autotext option that can automatically insert standard pieces of text and graphics into your documents, and a powerful Search tool with a ‘similarity search’ that lets you locate text that is similar – but not identical – to your selected text.

Page Layout: Writer doesn’t have a special layout mode like Pages or Word, so moving text and graphics around on the page can feel a bit untidy at times. However, there are plenty of useful layout options, including good tools for creating tables and forms, and very precise options for wrapping text around graphics, including a ‘contour editor’ that allows you to wrap text around hand-drawn contours. There are some useful graphics tools as well, such as the ability to adjust brightness and transparency, which make it possible to create very attractive layouts.

Collaboration: Collaboration isn’t Writer’s strong point. You can send someone a copy of your document, and then use its tracking options to see what changes they make. There’s also a ‘comparison’ option that lets you compare two versions of a document. However, the ‘collaboration’ section of the program’s Help files is completely blank and there doesn’t seem to be an option for users to share and collaborate on documents online.

Pros: free download, comprehensive wordprocessing tools, powerful Search tool, good freeform layout options

Cons: cluttered interface, limited collaboration options

 

Apple Pages 5.2

Price: free

More info: www.apple.com/mac/pages

See also: Pages for Mac review | Pages for Mac tips | Pages for iPad & iPhone tips

Wordprocessing: Pages isn't the most powerful wordprocessor available for the Mac, but it's easy to use and provides all the basic tools you need for simple documents such as letters, school reports or newsletters.

The latest version of Pages has an uncluttered interface that places most of its editing and layout tools in the Inspector panel that sits on the right-hand side of your screen. This contains features for formatting text, adjusting alignment and spacing, and adding elements such as bullet lists. The program also includes basic editing tools for graphics and photos too, so you can add fills and borders to hand-drawn graphics, or make simple adjustments to photos.

Page Layout: Apple describes Pages as the ‘most beautiful’ wordprocessor ever, and many of its most powerful features focus on combining text and graphics to create attractive page designs. There are lots of templates to help you get started, or you can just switch into the Page Layout mode that allows you to create your own designs by moving text and graphics elements freely around the page. For tighter control, the Inspector panel also includes options that allow you place objects on top of each other, to link text and graphics elements together, or wrap text around the edges of images.

Collaboration: Pages can track changes that you make to documents, and its support for iCloud allows you to sync documents across multiple devices, and even to share them online with friends or colleagues. These features work well on Macs and iOS devices but there’s no PC version of Pages, which means that collaborating with PC users is tricky – unless you can convince them to use the online version of Pages that is available via www.icloud.com.

Pros: easy to use, free with new Macs, versatile layout tools

Cons: runs on Macs and iOS devices only, editing tools are mainly geared towards shorter documents

Read:

Pages for Mac review

Numbers for Mac review

Keynote for Mac review

 

Scrivener 2.5

Price: £31.99

More info: The App Store

Wordprocessing: Scrivener includes a good set of wordprocessing tools, organized around a simple toolbar that allows you to quickly format text, adjust alignment, add comments, and to organize your work in outline mode. It can automatically generate a synopsis of your current document, and even includes a programmable name-generator to help create character names for that novel you’ve always been planning to write.

That’s a clue to Scrivener’s target audience, as the developers at Literature And Latte describe the program as a ‘content generator’ rather than a simple wordprocessor. Instead of working with one document at a time, its Binder palette allows you to create projects that combine many different files and documents. If you’re writing a novel or a text-book you could have each chapter as a separate item in the binder, along with research materials, photos and web pages that contain useful material.

Page Layout: You can import photos and graphics and insert them into your documents, but Scrivener is primarily focused on text.  It doesn’t have the freeform layout tools of Pages or Microsoft Word so it’s not the best choice if you want to experiment with different layouts for a newsletter or marketing brochure. Fortunately, there’s a demo version available from the developer’s web site that you can try before buying.

Collaboration: Scrivener allows you to create ‘snapshots’ that record the progress of a project, and there’s also a Revision mode that will highlight changes made to individual documents. However, your colleagues will all need their own up-to-date copies of Scrivener in order to share copies of your documents, and the complexity of its project-based file structure means that you can’t collaborate on documents online as you can with Pages, Google Docs, or MS Office Online.

Pros: versatile tool for creating complex writing projects, can combine graphics, web pages and text files within projects

Cons: project-based system will take time to learn, horribly complicated manual, limited collaboration tools

 

Microsoft Word

NOTE: Word for Mac 2016 is now available, check out these Word for Mac 2016 tips

Price: subscription – from £5.99 per month; MS Office 2011 – from £109.95

More info: office.microsoft.com

See also: Office for Mac 2014 release date information

Wordprocessing: Microsoft Word is the industry standard wordprocessor that is used by millions of people around the world in business, education and at home. The current version of Word for Mac – introduced back in 2011 – revolves around a special toolbar called the Ribbon, which sits right at the top of each document window.

The Ribbon crams in an enormous variety of editing tools, from simple text formatting to creating citations and bibliographies for technical manuals or scientific documents. Some people hate the Ribbon – arguing that it runs counter to the simplicity of good Mac software – but you can turn it off and hide it away if you want, leaving behind a simpler, more streamlined interface.

Page Layout:  Word includes a Publishing Layout mode – similar to the Page Layout mode in Pages – that allows you to freely move text and graphics elements around the page. The program includes dozens of templates with attractive designs, and the layout tools in the Ribbon include options for importing photos and creating hand-drawn graphics, tables and charts. There are also some powerful graphics tools, such as the ability to arrange text and graphics on multiple overlapping layers.

Collaboration: As part of the Microsoft Office suite, Word is very much designed with collaboration in mind. Larger businesses can use Microsoft’s SharePoint Server software in order to share documents internally, but you can also upload and share documents using Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud service. Within Word itself, the Ribbon includes a set of Review tools that allow you to track changes to a document, and decide which changes you will accept or reject, as well as controlling the access that others have to your documents. There’s also a free online version of Word available as part of Microsoft’s Office Online suite.

Pros: the industry standard, runs on Macs, Windows and iOS devices, comprehensive wordprocessing tools suitable for business, education and home

Cons: the Ribbon interface can appear cluttered, more expensive than Pages

You can read all our iWork reviews here: Apple Pages, Keynote & Numbers reviews

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